THE BOOK OF THOMAS

NHC II,7 138,1-145,19 (+ colophon 145,20-23)

translated by

John D. Turner

I. Incipit introducing the Savior, Thomas and Mathaias (138,1-4)


138 1 The secret sayings that the savior spoke to2 Judas Thomas which I, even I, Mathaias,3 wrote down, while I was walking, listening to them speak with 4 one another.
 

 

II. Dialogue between Thomas and the Savior (138,4-142,21)

A. Ignorance versus Self-Knowledge (138,4-138,21)

The savior said, "Brother Thomas5 while you have time in the world, listen to me,6 and I will reveal to you the things you have pondered7 in your mind.
 

"Now, since it has been said that you are my8 twin and true companion, examine yourself, and learn9 who you are, in what way you exist, and10 how you will come to be. Since you will be called my brother,11 it is not fitting that you be  ignorant12 of yourself. And I know that you have understood,13 because you had already understood that I am the knowledge of the truth. 14 So while you accompany me, although you are uncomprehending,15 you have (in fact) already come to know, and you will be called 'the one who 16 knows himself'. For he who has not known17 himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself18 has at the same time already achieved knowledge about the depth of the all. 19 So then, you, my brother Thomas, have beheld what is obscure20 to men, that is, what they ignorantly stumble against."21

B. Visible versus Invisible Reality (138,21-139,12)

Now Thomas said to the lord,22 "Therefore I beg you to tell me23 what I ask you before your ascension,24 and when I hear from you about25 the hidden things, then I can speak about26 them. And it is obvious to me that the truth is difficult to 27 perform before men."
 

The savior answered, saying,28 "If the things that are visible to you are obscure29 to you, how can you hear30 about the things that are not visible? If the deeds of the truth 31 that are visible in the world are difficult for you to perform,32 how indeed, then, shall you perform those that pertain to the 33 exalted height and to the pleroma which are not visible?34 And how shall you be called 'laborers'?35 In this respect you are apprentices, and have not yet received36 the height of perfection."

 

Now Thomas answered37 and said to the savior, "Tell us about these things38 that you say are not visible, [but are] hidden39 from us."

 

The savior said, "[Every human] body, [like] the40 the beasts, is begotten [irational].41 Doesn't it appear like [a creature erect] 42 [among other creatures? For] this very reason, those that are above43 [do not appear among] things that are visible, but they are visible 139 1 in their own root, and it is their fruit2 that nourishes them. But these visible bodies3 survive by devouring creatures similar to them4 with the result that the bodies change. Now that which changes will 5 decay and perish, and has no hope of life from then on,6 since that body is bestial. So just as the body of the beasts7 perishes, so also will these formations8 perish. Do they not derive from intercourse9 like that of the beasts? If it, too derives from intercourse,10 how will it beget anything different from11 beasts? So, therefore, you are babes until12 you become perfect."

C. The Illumination of the Invisible by the Savior's Light (139,12-31)

And Thomas answered,13 "Therefore I say to you, lord, that those who speak14 about things that are invisible and difficult15 to explain are like those who shoot their arrows at a16 target at night. To be sure, they shoot their arrows as17 anyone would - since they shoot at the target - but it is not visible. 18 Yet when the light comes forth and 19 hides the darkness, then the work of each will appear.20 And you, our light, enlighten, O lord."21
 

Jesus said, "It is in light that light exists."22

 

Thomas, spoke, saying, "Lord,23 why does this visible light that shines24 on behalf of men rise and set?"

 

The savior 25 said, "O blessed Thomas, of course this visible light26 shines on your behalf - not in order [that]27 you remain here, but rather that you might come forth28 - and whenever all the elect abandon29 bestiality, then this light will withdraw30 up to its essence, and its essence will welcome it,31 since it is a good servant."

D. The Wise Flee while the Ignorant Succumb to Bodily Passions (139.31-141,2)

Then 32 the savior continued and said, "O33 unsearchable love of the light! O bitterness of34 the fire that blazes in the bodies of men and in35 their marrow, kindling in them night and36 day, and burning the limbs of men and37 [making] their minds become drunk and their souls become deranged. 38 [And that which is imprisoned] in them (bodies)—within males and females39 [by day and] night—and that moves them 40 [powerfully, burns] secretly and visibly.41 For the males [move; they move upon the females]42 and the females upon [the males. Therefore it is] 1401 said, "Everyone who seeks the truth from2 true wisdom will make himself wings so as to3 fly, fleeing the lust that scorches the spirits4 of men." And he will make himself wings to flee5 every visible spirit."
 

a[uw petotp/]e?r?[o]ou Hrai+ H\n \nHou/t m\n \nsHiom?e 

[M]peHo?[ou !mn to]u?Sh auw etki/m eroou [H\n] ou-

[Go]m eF[Jero H]\n ouHw/p m\n ouw?n?H ebo[l   se]-

[ki]m gar \n?Gi \nHoou/t s[kim aJ\n \nsHio]-

And Thomas answered,6 saying, "Lord, this is exactly what I am asking7 you about, since I have understood that you8 are the one who is beneficial to us, as you say."

 

Again the savior9 answered and said, "Therefore it is necessary10 for us to speak to you, since this is the doctrine of the perfect. 11 If, now, you desire to become perfect, you shall12 observe these things; if not, your name is 'Ignorant',13 since it is impossible for an intelligent man to dwell with a 14 fool, for the intelligent man is perfect in all wisdom.15 To the fool, however, the good and bad are16 the same—indeed the wise man will be nourished17 by the truth and (Ps. 1:3) "will be like a tree growing by 18 the meandering stream"—seeing that there are some who, although having wings,19 rush upon the visible things, things that20 are far from the truth. For that which guides them,21 the fire, will give them an illusion of truth,22 [and] will shine on them with a [perishable] beauty,23 and it will imprison them in a dark24 sweetness and captivate them with fragrant pleasure.25 And it will blind them with insatiable lust26 and burn their souls and become27 for them like a stake stuck in their heart28 which they can never dislodge. And like29 a bit in the mouth, it leads them according to its30 own desire. And it has fettered them with its31 chains and bound all their limbs32 with the bitterness of the bondage of lust for those33 visible things that will decay and change34 and swerve by impulse. They have35 always been attracted downwards; as they are killed,36 they are assimilated to all the beasts of 37 the perishable realm."

 

Thomas answered and said, "It38 is obvious and has been said, '[Many are those who cry39 [out] to those who do not know [the repose of]40 [their] soul.'"

 

And [the savior] answered, saying,41 "[Blessed is] the wise man who [sought42 after the truth, and] when he found it, he rested 1411 upon it forever and was unafraid of those2 who wanted to disturb him."

E. The Inevitable Reincarnation of Non-ascetic Christians (141,2-18)

Thomas answered3 and said, "It is beneficial for us, lord, to rest4 among our own?"
 

The savior said, "Yes, it is useful.5 And it is good for you, since things visible6 among men will dissolve: for the vessel of  7 their flesh will dissolve, and when it is brought to naught8 it will come to be among visible things, among things that are seen. 9 And then the fire which they see gives them pain10 on account of love for the faith they11 formerly possessed. They will be gathered back to that which is visible. 12 Moreover, those who have sight among things that are not visible, without13 the first love they will perish in the concern for this14 life and the scorching of the fire. Only a little while longer, 15 and that which is visible will dissolve; then 16 shapeless shades will emerge, and 17 in the midst of tombs they will forever dwell upon the corpses18 in pain and corruption of soul."19

F. Infernal Punishment and Reincarnation for the Merely Well-intentioned (141,19-142,21)

Thomas answered and said, "What have we20 to say in the face of these things? What shall we say to21 blind men? What doctrine should we express to these miserable22 mortals who say, "We came to [do]23 good and not to curse," and yet [claim],24 "Had we not been begotten in the flesh, we would not have known 25 [iniquity]"?"
 

The savior said, "Truly, as for26 [those], do not esteem them as men, but regard them [as]27 beasts, for just as beasts devour one another,28 so also men of this sort29 devour one another. On the contrary, they are deprived of [the kingdom] 30 since they love the sweetness of the fire and31 are servants of death and rush to the works of corruption.32 They fulfill the lust of their fathers. They will33 be thrown down to the abyss and be afflicted34 by the torment of the bitterness of their evil nature.35 For they will be scourged so as to make them36 rush backwards, whither they do not know, and37 they [will recede] from their limbs not patiently, but38 with despair. And they rejoice over [their]39 [involvement with life in] madness and derangement, since they are [fools]. 40 [They] pursue this derangement without realizing [their41 madness, thinking] that they [are] wise. [They love]42 [the beauty] of their body [...] 1421 Their mind is directed to their own selves, for their thought is occupied 2 with their deeds. But it is the fire that will burn them."3

 

And Thomas answered and said, "Lord, what will the one 4 thrown down to them do? For I am most anxious 5 about them; many are those who fight them."6

 

The savior answered and said, "What is your own7 opinion?"

 

Judas - the one calledThomas - said, "It is you, lord, whom it befitsto speak, and me to listen."10

 

The savior replied, "Listen to what I am going to tell you 11 and believe in the truth. That which sows and that which is sown12 will dissolve in the fire - within the fire13 and the water - and they will hide in tombs of darkness.14 And after a long time they shall show forth15 the fruit of the evil trees, being punished,16 being slain in the mouth of beasts and men17 at the instigation of the rains and winds and air18 and the light that shines above."

G. How to Preach these Misunderstood Sayings (142,21-26)

Thomas 19 replied, "You have certainly persuaded us, lord.20 We realize in our heart, and it is obvious, that this21 [is so], and that your word is sufficient. But these sayings22 that you speak to us are ridiculous and contemptible to the world 23 since they are misunderstood. 24 So how can we go 25 preach them, since we are [not] esteemed 26 [in] the world?"

III. Monologue of the Savior [Secret Sayings] (142,26-145,16)

A. The Imprisonment of the Scoffers in Hades (142,26-143,7)

The savior answered and said,27 "Truly I tell you that he who will listen to28 [your] word and turn away his face or sneer29 at it or smirk at these things, truly30 I tell you that he will be handed over to31 the ruler above who rules over32 all the powers as their king, and he will turn33 that one around and cast him from heaven down to34 the abyss, and he will be imprisoned in a narrow35 dark place. Moreover, he can neither turn nor move on account of  36 the great depth of Tartaros and the [heavy bitterness]37 of Hades that is steadfast. [And] they38 [are drawn] into it [so that they will not] 39 [escape]. They will not put away [their madness. And]40 [the people that will] persecute you will be handed41 over [to the] angel Tartarouchos42 [who bears whips of] fire, pursuing them 1431 [as] fiery scourges cast a shower of sparks into2 the face of the one who is pursued. If he flees westward, he 3 finds the fire. If he turns southward, he finds it there as well.4 If he turns northward, the threat5 of seething fire meets him again. Nor does he find the way to the east 6 so as to flee there and be saved, for he did not find it in the day7 he was in the body, so that he might find it in the day of judgment." 8

B. Twelve Woes against the Scoffers (143,8-145,1)

Then the savior continued, saying,9
 

1. "Woe to you, godless ones, who have no hope,10 who rely on things that will not happen!

 

2. "Woe to you11 who hope in the flesh and in the prison that will perish!12 How long will you be oblivious? And how long will you suppose that the imperishables 13 will perish too? Your hope is set14 upon the world, and your god is this life!15 You are corrupting your souls!

 

3. "Woe to you within16 the fire that burns in you, for it is insatiable!17

 

4. "Woe to you because of the wheel that turns in18 your minds!

 

5. "Woe to you within the grip of the burning19 that is in you, for it will devour your flesh openly20 and rend your souls secretly,21 and prepare you for your companions!

 

6. "Woe to 22 you, captives, for you are bound in caverns!23 You laugh! In mad laughter you rejoice!24 You neither realize your perdition, nor25 do you reflect on your circumstances, nor have [you]26 understood that you dwell in darkness and [death]!27 On the contrary, you are drunk with the fire and [full]28 of bitterness. Your mind is deranged on account of the [burning 29 that is in] you, and sweet to you are the poison and30 the blows of your enemies! And the darkness rose for31 you like the light, for you surrendered your freedom32 for servitude! You darkened your hearts33 and surrendered your thoughts34 to folly, and you filled your thoughts35 with the smoke of the fire that is in you! And36 your light [has hidden] in the cloud37 [of darkness] and the garment that is put upon you, you [pursued] 38 [with deceit]. And [you] were seized [by 39 the hope that] does not exist. And whom is it [you40 have] believed? Do you [not know that you]41 all dwell among those who [...]42 [… and you boast] as though [you had hope]. 1441 You baptized your souls in the water of darkness!2 You walked by your own whims!

 

7. "Woe 3 to you who dwell in error, heedless4 that the light of the sun which judges and5 looks down upon the all will circle around all things6 so as to enslave the enemies. You do not even notice7 the moon, how by night and day it8 looks down, looking at the bodies of your slaughters!

 

8. "Woe 9 to you who love intimacy with womankind10 and polluted intercourse with them!

 

9. And woe 11 to you in the grip of the powers of your body,12 for they will afflict you!

 

10. Woe to you in the grip of13 the forces of the evil demons!14

 

11. Woe to you who beguile your limbs with fire!15 Who is it that will rain a refreshing dew on you16 to extinguish the mass of fire from you17 along with your burning? Who is it that will cause the sun to 18 shine upon you to disperse the darkness in you19 and hide the darkness and polluted water?

 

"The sun 20 and the moon will give a fragrance to you together with the air and21 the wind (spirit) and the earth and the water. For if the sun does not 22 shine upon these bodies, they will wither and perish23 just like weeds or grass. If24 the sun shines on them, they prevail and choke25 the grapevine; but if the grapevine26 prevails and shades those weeds27 [and] all the other brush growing alongside, and28 [spreads] and flourishes, it alone29 inherits the land in which it grows;30 and every place it has shaded it dominates.31 And when it grows up, it dominates all the land32 and is bountiful for its master, and it pleases him33 even more, for he would have suffered great pains34 on account of these plants until he uprooted them. But the 35 grapevine alone removed them and choked 36 them, and they died and became like the soil."

 

Then 37 Jesus continued and said to them,

 

12. "Woe to 38 you, for you did not receive the doctrine, and those who are [...]39 will labor at preaching [...].40 And [you] are rushing into … [...]41 […] will send [them] down …42 [...] you kill them daily 1451 in order that they might rise from death.

C. Three Macarisms (145,1-8)

1. "Blessed are you2 who have prior knowledge of the stumbling blocks and who flee 3 alien things.
 

2. "Blessed are you who are reviled4 and not esteemed on account of the love5 their lord has for them.

 

3. "Blessed are6 you who weep and are oppressed by7 those without hope, for you will be released from8 every bondage.

D. Pray to Exit the Body and Find Rest with the King (145,8-16)

"Watch and pray that you not come to be9 in the flesh, but rather that you come forth from the bondage of the bitterness 10 of this life. And as you pray, 11 you will find rest, for you have left behind the suffering and the disgrace.12 For when you come forth from the sufferings and13 passions of the body, you will receive rest14 from the good one, and you will reign with the king,15 you joined with him and he with you, from now on,16 for ever and ever, Amen." 17

IV. Subscript Title

The Book of Thomas 18 The Contender Writing 19 To the Perfect 20

V. Colophon

Remember me also, my brethren,21

[in] your prayers: 22

Peace to the saints 23

and those who are spiritual.